Child Maurice

A poem by Frank Sidgwick

The Text is from the Percy Folio, given literatim, with two rearrangements of the lines (in stt. 4 and 22) and a few obvious corrections, as suggested by Hales, and Furnivall, and Child. The Folio version was printed by Jamieson in his Popular Ballads and Songs.

The Scotch version, Gil Morrice, was printed by Percy in the Reliques in preference to the version of his Folio. He notes that the ballad 'has lately run through two editions in Scotland: the second was printed at Glasgow in 1755.' Thanks to an advertisement prefixed to these Scottish editions, sixteen additional verses were obtained and added by Percy, who thought that they were 'perhaps after all only an ingenious interpolation.' Gil Morrice introduces 'Lord Barnard' in place of 'John Steward,' adopted, perhaps, from Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard. Motherwell's versions were variously called Child Noryce, Bob Norice, Gill Morice, Chield Morice. Certainly the Folio ballad is unsurpassed for its vigorous, objective style, and forcible, vivid pictures.

The Story of this ballad gave rise to Home's Douglas, a tragedy, produced in the Concert Hall, Canongate, Edinburgh, 1756 (on which occasion the heroine's name was given as 'Lady Barnard'), and transferred to Covent Garden Theatre, in London, in 1757, the heroine's name being altered to 'Lady Randolph.'

Perhaps in the same year in which the play was produced in London, the poet Gray wrote from Cambridge:-- 'I have got the old Scotch ballad on which Douglas was founded; it is divine, and as long as from hence to Aston. Aristotle's best rules are observed in it in a manner which shows the author never had heard of Aristotle. It begins in the fifth act of the play. You may read it two-thirds through without guessing what it is about; and yet, when you come to the end, it is impossible not to understand the whole story.'


Child Maurice hunted ithe siluer wood,
He hunted itt round about,
And noebodye that he ffound therin,
Nor none there was with-out.

... ... ...
... ... ...
And he tooke his siluer combe in his hand,
To kembe his yellow lockes.

He sayes, 'Come hither, thou litle ffoot-page,
That runneth lowlye by my knee,
Ffor thou shalt goe to Iohn Stewards wiffe
And pray her speake with mee.

... ... ...
... ... ...
I, and greete thou doe that ladye well,
Euer soe well ffroe mee.

'And, as itt ffalls, as many times
As knotts beene knitt on a kell,
Or marchant men gone to leeue London
Either to buy ware or sell;

'And, as itt ffalles, as many times
As any hart can thinke,
Or schoole-masters are in any schoole-house
Writting with pen and inke:
Ffor if I might, as well as shee may,
This night I wold with her speake.

'And heere I send her a mantle of greene,
As greene as any grasse,
And bid her come to the siluer wood,
To hunt with Child Maurice.

'And there I send her a ring of gold,
A ring of precyous stone,
And bidd her come to the siluer wood,
Let ffor no kind of man.'

One while this litle boy he yode,
Another while he ran,
Vntill he came to Iohn Stewards hall,
I-wis he never blan.

And of nurture the child had good,
Hee ran vp hall and bower ffree,
And when he came to this lady ffaire,
Sayes, 'God you saue and see!

'I am come ffrom Child Maurice,
A message vnto thee;
And Child Maurice, he greetes you well,
And euer soe well ffrom mee;

'And, as itt ffalls, as oftentimes
As knotts beene knitt on a kell,
Or marchant-men gone to leeue London
Either ffor to buy ware or sell;

'And as oftentimes he greetes you well
As any hart can thinke,
Or schoolemasters are in any schoole,
Wryting with pen and inke.

'And heere he sends a mantle of greene,
As greene as any grasse,
And he bidds you come to the siluer wood,
To hunt with Child Maurice.

'And heere he sends you a ring of gold,
A ring of the precyous stone;
He prayes you to come to the siluer wood,
Let ffor no kind of man.'

'Now peace, now peace, thou litle ffoot-page,
Ffor Christes sake, I pray thee!
Ffor if my lord heare one of these words,
Thou must be hanged hye!'

Iohn Steward stood vnder the castle-wall,
And he wrote the words euerye one,
... ... ...
... ... ...

And he called vnto his hors-keeper,
'Make readye you my steede!'
I, and soe he did to his chamberlaine,
'Make readye thou my weede!'

And he cast a lease vpon his backe,
And he rode to the siluer wood,
And there he sought all about,
About the siluer wood.

And there he ffound him Child Maurice
Sitting vpon a blocke,
With a siluer combe in his hand,
Kembing his yellow locke.

... ... ...

But then stood vp him Child Maurice,
And sayd these words trulye:
'I doe not know your ladye,' he said,
'If that I doe her see.'

He sayes, 'How now, how now, Child Maurice?
Alacke, how may this bee?
Ffor thou hast sent her loue-tokens,
More now then two or three;

'Ffor thou hast sent her a mantle of greene,
As greene as any grasse,
And bade her come to the siluer woode
To hunt with Child Maurice.

'And thou [hast] sent her a ring of gold,
A ring of precyous stone,
And bade her come to the siluer wood,
Let ffor noe kind of man.

'And by my ffaith, now, Child Maurice,
The tone of vs shall dye!'
'Now be my troth,' sayd Child Maurice,
'And that shall not be I.'

But hee pulled forth a bright browne sword,
And dryed itt on the grasse,
And soe ffast he smote att Iohn Steward,
I-wisse he neuer rest.

Then hee pulled fforth his bright browne sword,
And dryed itt on his sleeue,
And the ffirst good stroke Iohn Stewart stroke,
Child Maurice head he did cleeue.

And he pricked itt on his swords poynt,
Went singing there beside,
And he rode till he came to that ladye ffaire,
Wheras this ladye lyed.

And sayes, 'Dost thou know Child Maurice head,
If that thou dost itt see?
And lap itt soft, and kisse itt oft,
For thou louedst him better than mee.'

But when shee looked on Child Maurice head,
She neuer spake words but three:
'I neuer beare no child but one,
And you haue slaine him trulye.'

Sayes, 'Wicked be my merrymen all,
I gaue meate, drinke, and clothe!
But cold they not haue holden me
When I was in all that wrath!

'Ffor I haue slaine one of the curteousest knights
That euer bestrode a steed,
Soe haue I done one [of] the fairest ladyes
That euer ware womans weede!'

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